One of my favorite provisions in the CBA that was signed in 2020 is the one that allows for the expansion of game-day rosters from 53 to 55 players. It’s a small quirk, but it’s not inconsequential.
Moreover, it might be something that comes into play for the Chicago Bears soon as Week 1, as they kick the tires on some potential defensive help:
Chicago Bears worked out Damion Square, Margus Hunt and Josh Mauro
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 7, 2021
NFL insider Aaron Wilson reports the Bears were hosting workouts for defensive linemen Damion Square, Margus Hunt, and Josh Mauro.
Square, 32, has experience with the Eagles (2013), Chiefs (2014), and Chargers (2014-20). He has 91 games (24 starts) of experience under his belt and 6.5 sacks on his résumé.
Hunt, 34, has even more experience than Square. A second-round pick by the Bengals in 2013, Hunt has 114 total tackles, 26 tackles-for-loss, and 8.5 career sacks in 104 games (26 starts) with the Bengals (2013-16, 2020), Colts (2017-19), and Saints (2020).
Mauro, 30, also comes with ample professional experience. The Stanford product has 75 games (39 starts) at stops with the Cardinals (2014-17, 2020), Giants (2018), and Raiders (2019). No one truly stands out at first glance. But the Bears have a knack for unearthing productive defensive linemen from thin air. So in this situation, they’ll get the benefit of the doubt from me, should they decide to sign a defender.
What’s noteworthy is how this marks the second time in three weeks that Chicago has brought in a trio of defensive linemen for tryouts. The workout at the end of August ultimately resulted in the team signing Auzoyah Alufohai, who now resides on the practice squad. And yet, the Bears continue to plug away and check in on other options. Let’s try to explain why.
Firstly, the Bears’ active roster features just five defensive linemen (one of which is a rookie nose tackle). Meaning just one backup *waves at Angelo Blackson* has experience in a professional regular-season game.
Secondly, Mario Edwards Jr. — who figures to play in a rotational role — is serving a suspension for the first two games of the season for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Edwards’ absence could be a factor in the Bears searching for short-term help. And thirdly, we were never given clarity about the Bilal Nichols injury that put the wheels in motion for the first set of DL workouts. In the end, it’s always good to have an eye on potential help. But, ideally, it’s a more of a short-term fill-in-the-gap thing and less of an omg-gotta-find-a-placeholder-for-an-injured-Nichols deal.
As for how the Bears can finesse the league’s roster rules we made reference to earlier, follow along for a moment. The expansion of the NFL’s practice squads from 10 to 16 players allows teams to add a number of veterans who previously would’ve been unable to join due to having eclipsed service time marks. So, in theory, the Bears could add someone to their practice squad, elevate them to the game-day roster, and not use up precious space on the 53-man roster. A player can go from the practice squad to the game-day roster just twice. After that, then that player must be brought onto the active 53-man roster in order to play/roster them. It is a finessing of the rules, to be sure. But one that, if used properly, can make for max flexibility.